Would you like to take your career to the next level? And you don’t simply look for the next step on the career ladder? Rather, you find yourself searching for more meaning, depth and legacy? And yet, you seem to get stuck on WHAT it could be.
Chances are you actually don’t know. Chances are you do know it, but it’s scary and/or deeply buried. You think a career in X is impossible. Money can’t be made. There’s too much in the way. You’ve got too much depending on what you do now, etc.
I get it. I don’t say it’s going to be a walk in the park. It may even be extra painful, because: a) You are likely to beat yourself up over “Why haven’t I done it yet” once you realise there IS a way.
b) You really risk something by going for the thing you love: As long as your thing is a mere fantasy, there is no real risk of failure. No giving up on your dearest thing, which has sort of a value by “potentially existing”. What if you change that, only to lose your favourite hope?
Even if this may sound threatening, there’s good news: Those concerns don’t have to hold you back, because there’s rarely such a thing as THE failure – life just isn’t linear and we all meander, make mistakes and try again. The bigger we dream and the more we go for it, the more it happens.
So, ultimately, this is a decision whether you want to play big or keep within what feels safe. (Don’t get me wrong – both are fine! You just can’t have both at the same time). So – what if you’re ready to take the leap and explore a different path? There’s a couple hands-on things you can do:
First of all: Cut out the “how”
In all of this it’s absolutely essential that you don’t ask yourself: “But HOW!” How is always the thing we figure last – because: We can always find ways. Be it breakthroughs, compromises, something completely unexpected – ways do show up once we committed. (Especially if we get supported to see our blind spots). Things we just didn’t want to say “yes” to, before we weren’t entirely clear on WHAT we are going for. Once we do know, the “how” opens up by itself.
Now that does require trust, and it’s an unusual way to act. Yet, if we don’t do it, we tend to cut out completely viable options wayyyy to early in the process. We qualify and we marginalise things that seem to be the “wrong” ones without actually having sufficient data – just the one our brain makes up. This is why I encourage you to let go of the “how”.
We are not brought up in a way that necessarily encourages us to find out and explore what we love. Most of us are much closer to this when we are kids, but at the latest when we enter university and/or the job world, other considerations become more important.
So the first thing is this: Get curious about yourself. Allow yourself to explore. Unleash your inner child. And please, do freely so. Find out what you love and completely detach it from a potential career. This is not about any career yet. It’s about getting back in touch with what truly lights you up.
Ask yourself for a while (I’m speaking a couple weeks): What do you love in life?
You don’t have to go fancy with this. Rather, find out what sticks out day-to-day. Which bits do you enjoy? What lights you up? What makes you stay longer?
Next, go beyond exploring what’s right in front of your nose. Explore your values, your desires. Maybe explore your past. Was there something you used to love but gave up for some very sensible reason?
Get (back) in touch with what you really, really want from life.
Take the things you love and brainstorm, google, go wild. How have people built careers out of those things? Again do NOT compare it to you and your life. You may miss out on a real nugget if you dismiss stuff early on. And again, take your time. Have conversations. Really get a feel for what is possible out there. And even if it doesn’t exist yet, why not jot it down anyway?
The more ideas the better in this stage. (And if you notice you’re resistant, because it turns out you actually already KNOW, that’s super awesome, too💙 ).
Only after you collected a real wealth of ideas over several days, narrow them down – Feel into them, and pick those that excite you the most. And, you guessed it, WITHOUT thinking about how you could incorporate them into your career just yet. And then, take action from here:
Create an experimental bubble
We never truly know what we love to do before we haven’t done it – it’s time to collect data. Do you like the doing or do you just like the idea of it?
To not make this really overwhelming and scary and mean a TON, just create a tiny bubble – run an experiment for a couple weeks. Commit to something for a while in a scope you can fit into your day.
Find out what you love – by taking consistent action.
It gives you several things:
- Real-life data: What does DOING the thing do to you? Do you enjoy who you are being when you make it happen? Do you like the way it impacts others? Does it make the difference you crave?
- Get to an insight into the ups and downs. Is the thing WORTH leaning into discomfort, the fears and the lows that come with every edgy, non-default thing we are taking on?
- Do you want to be a “professional” in this? Meaning: Are you willing and ready to commit to this thing every (work-) day?
Let the bubble be playful and messy – it doesn’t have to feel super awesome and perfect from the start. Dive into the work, if on a tiny scale. (Disclaimer: If you’re anything like me, this may get you super-stuck. It’s normal to need help here!)
Why don’t you run a couple of those experiments and see it as an iteration that brings you slowly closer to what your passion is. (Hint: It may be a combination of several things).
And then, why don’t you run it as a side thing for a while longer, see whether it sticks around. See what begins to flourish and keep feeling deep into yourself whether you feel on mission.
How to turn it into a career?
There we are – you found something that excites you. And maybe, you’re still like… “But HOW! I love it, but the risk is just too high.”
For one – it’s probably a good idea to get support at this point (if you haven’t yet, because working through the above steps alone can be a huge challenge!).
Also – you can totally just keep going through the process above. Iterate: Go back to research, and next, create a couple bubbles. Refine them. And slowly expand them. Go part-time and see what you can make happen. Find an agreement with your spouse. Find a partner etc. pp.
Almost always it’s a lot more about us being consistent, professional, showing up fully and acting, doing, playing – rather than having the answers in your head before you set out. And if you made it this far and actually ran a couple experimental bubbles, brought in the consistency and commitment, you’ll be much closer to what you would love to do – and even how. I’m sure of it. What’s your first bubble?